Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Food Stamp Foodie

So lately I've had a major case of Velcro Baby, otherwise known as Baby Who Never Wants To Be Put Down, which makes it hard to write. I posted a pic of this sweet little Velcro dumpling this morning one-handed as he held fast to my hair with both fists and chewed my cheek. Ah, motherhood. I have never enjoyed it so much in all its precious fleeting glory. As Dear Daughter is turning 16 next month, the F-Bomber is now 6 and tiny boy is the last of the fleet I feel, I don't know, exhausted, happy, confused, lonely already. The other night the two older children were gone with friends and baby was napping. Hubby and I actually had dinner together, neither of us juggling a grabby, crabby tot or refilling milk glasses or cutting meat, etc. It was WEIRD I tell you! Strange and outlandish! I felt my mortal clock ticking loudly as I was reminded: Good God woman, this is what old age will be like. Just you and Matt. Listening to each other chew. And my GOD did he always eat like that or is this a special night because no kids are around? The noise was unholy!

Anyhow, as per the title of this post, I am now embarking on a sideways kind of mini-feature of F-Bomb and Mom: a periodic posting that will ponder the issues of feeding one's family while feeling poverty's pinch at the supermarket but still feeling the keen desire to eat well. In this mini-blog, blog-ette or bloglet, as it were, we shall examine issues such as: Is it ethical to purchase luxury items such as brie, balsamic vinegar or toaster strudel with food stamps? (Uh, probably not); How can I feed my family of five on pennies a day (and still make them feel that they are still enjoying their favorite meals, with each food group represented); and cheap food product reviews. The latter I will tackle today in my first Food Stamp Foodie post. And please, if anyone out there is offended by the name of this post, please feel free to ream me a new one. I do realize that people are struggling and hungry and trying really hard to make ends meet. Rest assured, I feel you. I am you.

So. Lets talk ramen. Yes, these starchy turds in cellophane have been a staple of the broke for, I don't know, centuries? When I was a kid we once lived in a rented duplex alongside a very motivated, interesting and mainly non-English speaking Korean family who ran a home sewing business. The children, first generation Americans, were wonderful playmates. Their daughter, Ami (pronounced Ah-Me) and I were instant best friends. We even started our own neighborhood newspaper which is remarkable, since I was only in first grade and she in second and it was hand-printed in both English and Korean. My pen name was Jade Snow and we covered the north side of Escanaba like pros. Anyhow, I digress.

The neighbor children, which included Ami and her two young brothers, introduced me to ramen for the first time. It was their favorite after-school snack and I saw them eat it often. They were eager to share and after an initial period of doubt I gave in and tried. Salty. Weird. Starchy. What's really weird? They didn't cook it. Ami and her brothers would sit on the back stoop, peel back the crinkly wrapper, extract the silvery little seasoning packet, rip it open with their teeth and sprinkle it over the hard crispy noodles. Chomp and repeat, crispy white bits flying everwhere, the tiny curls collecting on their clothes for later, I guess. I didn't know that ramen was eaten cooked until high school, when it became a dietary staple after a night of, um, 'recreational smoking' with my friends.

The other night I was discussing ramen on the phone with my mother. Ramen is poor food, but it is a nourishing, hot meal that, for about .19 cents a package, fills up your tummy and your cupboard for a very reasonable price. But what about when company comes over and you're pinched for an entree? Enter the cup 'o ramen complete with freeze dried veggies and shrimp or TVP. Fancy! Still cheap! Same quick cook time, but clean up is even more of a breeze because it cooks and is served in the same container! Woo Hoo! My mother thinks I'm hilarious. And for about .48 cents a serving, your guests will be full, satisfied, and impressed that you stepped up your game for them.

But what about date night, you ask? What happens when you're still on a ramen budget but you have a special someone coming over? Not to worry. I have recently discovered the Holy Grail of ramen, the defacto champion of cheap noodles, nay, the GOD of all ramen: Nissin chow mien. Can I get an Amen?

My dear uncle Baboo turned me on to these sweet eats and I am eternally grateful. At about .78 cents a pack for these tasty num-nums, they reign as the most expensive ramen, but as you can imagine, the most delicious. They require more cooking time; five minutes compared to the standard three. Instead of one spice pack to open there are three to fumble with and they do not exhibit the curliness of regular ramen but by God, these are the most fantastic cheap noodles you will ever imbibe! I swear, they are WAY better than the noodles at my favorite Chinese buffet and an ocean apart from any other ramen, ever. The terriyaki beef is by far my favorite - it comes with a little veggie pack, seasoning pack and flavored oil. Yumm-O.

According to the Nissin website, there are 15 flavors, though locally I can only source three, the beef, chicken and shrimp varieties. I have had all three and all are delicious. Since I have discovered Nissin noodles, I have eaten them for lunch every day; I am sure my doctor would be so proud of me (not so hot on the sodium content, like all ramen)! So try them, for real, you will thank me, your date will thank me, your wallet will thank me, your doctor, not so much. And that's it for this post. I am tired and it's late. Over and out.

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